What does blotchy maple stain look like? Google has failed me...

williamsemJanuary 4, 2013

I'm ordering cabinets next week. I want maple cabinets with a medium to darkish stain. I have read all over the place that maple doesn't stain well and gets blotchy, but I can't seem to find pictures of what that means! I have seen pictures where it looks like veining or variation like you see in other woods, but blotchy? All the cabinets I see look fine despite the warning.

Anyone have pics of blotchy maple so I can see what I should be fearing? The old GW links I found were all broken.

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Sophie Wheeler


Here's a pic showing the blotch, as well as a method to prevent it.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 3:50PM
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I have medium stained maple cabinets. As I've followed another thread here today I have remembered how when they first arrived and were put in I was so disappointed and awfully afraid I was that I would always see the blochiness. That hasn't happened. I quit noticing it as soon as the kitchen came together, and everything got put back in place, it just adds to the warmth and character now, IMO. I actually like the unevenness of the finish now. Really. The unevenness of the finish is what separates real wood from laminate imitators -- check out a laminate floor or door, nothing blotchy there, easy to photoshop a picture. "This is no picture," my cabinets seem to be saying. Three years later, I'd even choose maple again -- tough stuff, not a ding or scratch on it yet, with cooks, kids, foster kids, and bulldogs. That's saying something.

The picture I added is mid-reno. In the finished kitchen I can't take a distant photo with the island and pendants in the way -- seeing it all at once is really the only way to notice the differences. The left side of the photo is engulfed in shadows, so ignore that (it has similar variations)-- the right side of the photo is an accurate representation of the finish. The place that particularly bothered me was stark change from dark to light when comparing the two base cabinet doors (same cabinet), second and third doors from the right. Those are behind an island now and like I said, they wouldn't/don't bother me at all now.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 3:57PM
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Kris_ma's is a great example, and personally I LOVE that kitchen! To me, that is what wood is supposed to look like. Here is ours with similar variation ... I guess people who don't like or expect it call it 'blotchiness', but I just call it 'variation', lol.

From far away and then closer up:

And here is an example in our ensuite. It's a bit dark re the lack of amazing lighting by the john :) but it shows the difference between a maple veneer vs. the wood. The vanity on the left is just veneer because we didn't want to pay the ridiculously crazy builder upcharge for real wood, but the cabinets over the toilet we had added later and went with wood. Not the best picture, but it at least shows the difference re. how the veneer is smooth and unvaried whereas the wood shows variation re how the wood areas take the stain.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 4:58PM
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If you're using a commercial cabinet manufacturer, they should have processes in place to minimize (not eliminate) the variations in the way the wood takes the stain. Applying a pre-treatment (wood conditioner) is one way, as is staining the cabinets lighter then applying extra color with a tinted finish coat to even out the color. I'm sure there are others. We went through this when we had our clear finished maple cabinets re-done.

Why not ask before you order the cabinets, and find out what their policy is on color variation?

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 5:40PM
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I can see the blotches Hollysprings posted, thanks! Those are beautiful cabinets, kris_ma and taggie! I guess I just like real wood as I don't see that as any different than grain. If one door was especially odd and not fitting in that's one thing, but I'd take taggies dark cabs in a heartbeat!

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 7:02PM
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Thank you so much for posting this! I can stand variations, actually like it.

I have a Drexel china cabinet in washed oak for $600 that had a price of $4300, and I'm sure it was a messed up finish, has variations, and I love it!

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 7:45PM
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